The Carer’s Leave Bill is a private member’s bill that would amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to give the secretary of state the power to create, by regulations, a new entitlement to carer’s leave. This unpaid leave would be available to employees who need to provide or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.
The new statutory entitlement would be a ‘day one right’ meaning that it would be available to employees no matter how long they had worked for their employer. Employees would not have to provide evidence in relation to any request for carer’s leave and would be able to take the leave in increments of half-days or individual days, up to at least a week over a 12-month period.
Taking carer’s leave would have the same employment protections as are associated with other forms of family related leave. This would include protection from dismissal or detriment as a result of having taken carer’s leave.
The bill would extend to the whole of the UK. However, as employment law is devolved to Northern Ireland, it would only apply to England, Wales and Scotland.
The issue of leave for unpaid carers has been the subject of debate for several years and the government has previously committed to bringing forward legislation. However, no government legislation has been introduced to Parliament, with a minister recently suggesting that a government bill would be unnecessary because of the Carer’s Leave Bill.
The bill was sponsored in the House of Commons by Wendy Chamberlain (Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife). It passed its stages in the House of Commons unamended and received cross-party support. This included support from the government, with the then Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy preparing the explanatory notes to the bill.
The bill has also received support from a wide range of organisations, including the charity Carers UK.
The bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 6 February 2023. It is sponsored by Lord Fox (Liberal Democrat) and is scheduled to have its second reading on 3 March 2023.